Agriculture and Environment covers some big issues influencing the future of Europe. They include the common agricultural policy and the Sustainable Development Strategy. On climate change, the EESC helps to put civil society’s interests on the agenda at top-level international meetings, such as the United Nations Rio+20. Forestry, fisheries, animal welfare, food safety and waste management all come under this heading.
Any successful democracy depends on the active support and participation of citizens. For over 50 years, the EESC has strengthened the EU’s democratic legitimacy by bringing civil society closer to European institutions: keeping citizens informed and consulted, and transmitting their views to EU decision-makers. It promotes an active, participative democracy, based on dialogue and transparency.
The Consumers theme covers all topics related to the rights of consumers when they buy goods and services in the Single Market. The EESC aims to make sure consumers have the rights and protection they need, and to combat unfair trading practices. We also promote more sustainable consumption patterns, and cooperate with national consumer councils. The annual Consumer Day Conference, held since 1999, is the high point of the calendar.
This theme includes crucial topics such as economic and monetary policy, financial markets, taxation, the EU budget and economic and social cohesion. Growth and employment also fall under this heading, making it a key policy area in Europe’s recovery from the financial and economic crisis. The EESC takes a special interest in completing the architecture of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) as a cornerstone in any further developments in EU integration.
Since a sustainable and secure energy supply is essential to Europeans’ well-being, this policy area is a priority, and also covers energy efficiency, renewables, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Transport and energy are interconnected, so issues ranging from urban mobility to trans-European road and rail networks and freight transport, as well as employment conditions for transport workers, are also included.
The Enterprises and Industry theme covers the EU’s industrial and competition policies, as well as the Single Market, services, small and medium-sized enterprises, social entrepreneurship and the social economy. Research and innovation, which are of major importance for the European recovery, also fall under this heading.
The Europe 2020 strategy sets out the EU’s ambitious programme for boosting growth and jobs over the coming years. As well as helping Europe to recover from the economic crisis, it outlines policies designed to create smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion, underpinned by seven flagship initiatives. We have set up a Europe 2020 Steering Committee to foster networking and good practice to support the strategy.
The EESC’s activities in the rest of Europe and neighbouring countries form an integral part of EU external policy, complementing the work of other institutions. Members are actively involved in supporting and cooperating with civil society organisations in countries pursuing EU membership, such as the Western Balkan states, as well as Russia and the EU’s Eastern Neighbours.
The EESC establishes and maintains relations with civil society organisations on other continents, including Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP countries), Asia, and Latin America. We have launched civil society round tables with India, China and Brazil, and we monitor trade and cooperation agreements between the EU and other parts of the world.
The Information Society theme deals with three main issues: e-accessibility, bridging the digital gap in Europe, and protecting children and helping people with disabilities to use computers and the new media. We analyse the impact of information and communication technologies on society, and carry out public consultations on issues like mobile-phone roaming charges.
The EESC has taken an active role, with other institutions, in the reform and evolution of the EU treaties. Following the Laeken Declaration of 15 December 2001, we contributed to the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe, between February 2002 and July 2003. The Lisbon Treaty (1 December 2009) opened new opportunities for citizens to participate in EU policy-making.
The Social Affairs theme covers many issues related to living and working conditions in the EU, including employment, education and training, gender equality, poverty, health, justice and immigration, and children, young and older people. We encourage and support volunteering and active citizenship. The Labour Market Observatory monitors trends and challenges affecting Europe’s workforce and labour market.